How much do you pay attention on what you eat? Do you go to the local market to buy fresh products or do you order online vacuum packed food? Do you prepare your food with love or are you impatiently waiting for the beep of the microwave? And, how do you eat? Consuming a sandwich on a bicycle in a hurry, or do you skip breakfast at all? All these questions were addressed in the Ayurvedic workshop I once followed. Some principles were known to me, but I also learned new insights that could improve my eating habits.
In this first part of three I will explain the background of Ayurveda and why we actually eat.
Ayurveda means literally ‘knowledge of life. Ayurveda, the traditional Indian medicine, contains a 3000 year old wisdom, is incredibly versatile and focuses on the prevention of diseases. Yoga poses, breathing exercises, meditation and proper nutrition are the basic elements for a healthy life in body and mind. Mindfulness is also a key ingredient in ayurveda. The workshop focused on nutrition in combination with these famous 'awareness'. Why, when, where and how we eat are more important questions than what we eat. From Ayurvedic perspective it is 'better' to eat a chocolate muffin in which we longed for with a lot of yummy sounds than to eat uninterested a macrobiotic meal in front of the television.
The workshop is given by Liese van Dam, a dynamic young woman. She is a yoga teacher, gives ayurvedic massages, nutritional consultations and retreats. Excited she tells us about her cooking workshops based on Ayurvedic recipes. We introduce ourselves (ten women and one man) and explain why we are here. Some of us hope that the Ayurveda offers solutions for their allergies they have gotten over the years. Others are especially curious. I am particularly interested how I can get more rest in my eating behavior.
Real hunger or a craving?
Life would like to maintain and that is why we need food. Liese asks us why we eat. I sum up in my head: ... If I crave for something sweets, even if I am not hungry ... if I am restless or stressed and of course if I am really hungry. Liese gives us a different summary. There are 3 reasons why we eat (based on the book of Meike van Herwijnen, ‘Get rid of the scales’):
If you experience real physiological hunger
If you want to enjoy a certain taste; for example: you buy 2 delicious chocolates for a special occasion, you put it in the refrigerator without further looking
If you are experiencing a lot of stress, or feeling restless because of stucked emotions.
Agni – Fire
The ayurveda put it actually very simple: eat when you are hungry and eat not if you have no appetite. Important is how it feels in your body when you are hungry. Can you feel a difference in your body between longing for candy or real physiological hunger. The one will become cranky, the other light in the head and some else will experience anger if they don't eat on time. Liese explains that it all depends on our 'agni' which is different for all of us. Agni, the Sanskrit word for ‘fire’, means the digestion process. It is important that our digestion is in an optimal condition. Only then can our food, that has to be transported to our cells, serve as the proper fuel. In ayurveda, it is important to keep your agni in balance. To enlarge this fire it is recommended to drink 15 minutes before a meal fresh ginger tea. A brief silence before a meal is therefore not so crazy. Besides expressing your gratitude for what is on your plate, your agni is better prepared for the food. moet worden naar onze cellen, dienen als de juiste brandstof. In de ayurveda gaat het erom om agni in balans te houden. Om dit vuurtje te vergroten wordt geadviseerd 15 minuten voor de maaltijd verse gemberthee te drinken.
According to ayurveda it's important to balance our agni, our digestion. By getting to know your body more and more, you will feel what is really good for your body and what is not. Picking up the signals. Real hunger? Feed your body! Or, do you choose to chase your cravings? Do you want to feed your emotions by eating a lot of chips or chocolates?
You make the decision by yourself. Whatever you will chose, do it mindfully…